Best Budget Android Phones TechnoBuffalo 2021
The list of high end, premium Android smartphones is very long and extensive. Yet there is just as rich array of options in the affordable range the truly dazzle with their features, design, and overall experience. Here at TechnoBuffalo, we've had the opportunity to test all of these amazing smartphones and the Pixel 3a XL earns our selection for best budget Android phone you can buy right now.
- Best Camera: Pixel 3a XL
- Best Software: Moto G7
- Best Large Screen: Sony Xperia 10 Plus
- Best Display: Samsung Galaxy S9
- Best Feature Set: OnePlus 6T
Our Pick: Pixel 3a XL
In 2019, Google took an unprecedented turn with its Pixel line. Instead of solely relying on the high end market, it pivoted to the mid-range with the Pixel 3a XL, a smartphone the delivers the best features of the Pixel line with a few minor compromises that brings down price point to much more affordable territory.
This instantly makes the Pixel 3a XL the best budget Android phone. From all aspects, this phone is a fantastic buy. You get an amazing 6-inch OLED display, streamlined software with guaranteed future updates for years to come, and the best camera on a smartphone that delivers class-leading picture quality and low-light photography.
The camera was carried over from the much more expensive Pixel 3 devices, but you don't have to pay the premium to get the same experience. Google applied the same process to the software experience. Sure, it isn't as loud as other software skins, but with Google behind it, you know you'll get timely and constant updates for at least two years, if not more. That's not something many Android phones can say.
Sure, there were some minor compromises. It has a plastic body, no wireless charging, and only a 600 series Snapdragon processor. This doesn't make it the most powerful smartphone in the world, even in the affordable market. That said, there are things you get with the Pixel 3a XL no other smartphone can provide.
- Class-leading camera
- Beautiful OLED display
- Timely and constant software upgrades
- Plastic body
- No wireless charging
- Underpowered processor
Pixel 3a XL
The best camera on a smartphone
For the first time in smartphone history, you don't have to spend $800 for the best smartphone camera. That's the biggest selling point of the Pixel 3a XL, but you also get an amazing OLED display and Google's clean Pixel software that won't bog down the phone and will be aided by constant updates.
Best Software: Moto G7
Motorola continues to deliver amazing mid-range devices and the Moto G7 is no exception. Its the company's latest entry that delivers a fantastic experience. Gone are the needless bezels, which are replaced by an edge-to-edge display that looks absolutely amazing. That is made possible by the tear drop notch at the top and slim chin at the bottom.
What's more, Motorola put great care into the software. It is basically stock Android, but Motorola threw in a few extra features that don't get in the way and that you actually want to use. Moto Display and Moto Actions make it super easy to fully control your phone with unique gestures to access the camera or flashlight and better control its always on display.
It might not be a perfect device — the dual-camera is only dcent at best and the Motorola branding on the phone is ugly — but we can get past those shortcomings because it is a really great smartphone. It also doesn't hurt that it is the least expensive of all our selections on this list.
- Super clean software
- Gorgeous glass and metal body
- Crisp bezel-less display
- Okay camera
- No wireless charging
- Ugly Motorola branding
One of the best software experiences on a smartphone
You don't have to break the bank to get an amazing phone. The Moto G7 proves that theory wrong with its amazing industrial body that screams premium and its beautiful bezel-less display. It's hard to believe this phone is so inexpensive.
Best Large Screen: Sony Xperia 10 Plus
Looking for a plus-size budget Android phone? Look no further than the Sony Xperia 10 Plus. Part of Sony's redesign for the Xperia line, it does away with the chunky and outdated bezels and in its place is a sleek and beautiful 6.5-inch LCD display that wins just based on sheer size. The display is super high resolution with a 2520x1080 finish for 422 pixels per inch. That may not be the highest resolution display on this list, but it is the biggest by far, which is much more important to some people.
There's more to this phone than just a big display. It also has a durable aluminum unibody that won't shatter instantly when it first experiences unexpected contact. Sony has also gone a long way in improving its software to something more simple and easy to use. You won't find any bloatware here.
Where Sony cut some corners is with the finish, including the odd forehead on the display and the weird fingerprint scanner on the side that isn't a power button, there's another button for that function. Then there's the camera, which will take solid photos, but not anything close to something like the Pixel 3a XL. But you don't get his phone for the camera, you get it for the big display, and on that level, it blows away the competition.
- Spacious 6.5-inch display
- Sturdy aluminum unibody
- Headphone jack
- Big forehead bezel
- Dual-camera is only okay
- Fingerprint/power button layout
Best Large Screen
Sony Xperia 10 Plus
Go with the biggest display possible
Ironically, though plus-size displays are all the range, there aren't too many great large screen phones in the mid-range market that are also just great phones. The Sony Xperia 10 Plus is one of the outliers with its expansive 6.5-inch display that also has great specs and a premium design.
Best Display: Samsung Galaxy S9
When the Samsung Galaxy S9 came out in early 2018, it was seen as one of the best smartphones, period. But with Samsung focusing on its new phones, it has heavily discounted its former flagship, dropping it into the best budget Android list.
What buyers of the Galaxy S9 will get is the best display in the mid-range market. Its 5.8-inch Super AMOLED display with a 2960x1440 resolution is one of the best displays on any smartphone, let alone one that costs under $500. Text is detailed, images are vivid, and video is crisp. You'll also get Samsung's gorgeous industrial design and impressive camera as convinient add-ons.
More so, the one feature budget phones continue to exclude is wireless charging and that's disappointing. Out of all of the devices we selected, only the Galaxy S9 offers wireless charging, and that's only because this is a high-end flagship that's gone down in cost.
Are there things you need to worry about with the Galaxy S9? Of course. It is, after all, a year old, which means it has an older processor (Snapdragon 845) and it might not get too many future updates. You're also stuck with a useless Bixby button on the side, which you can't get rid of. That's par for the course with an older Samsung phone, but even then, we'd still take the gamble with the S9.
- Stunning OLED display
- Premium glass and metal body
- Wireless charging
- Former flagship
- Over a year old
- Bixby button
- Limited future software updates
Samsung Galaxy S9
Get the best display on a smartphone that won't cost a fortune
It used to be that when buying a mid-range Android phone, you'd have to settle for an okay display. That's not the case with the Samsung Galaxy S9 and its amazing super AMOLED display, and that's just the tip of the iceberg for an all-around fantastic device.
Best Feature Set: OnePlus 6T
It's hard to remember how great the OnePlus 6T is with the OnePlus 7 Pro hogging all the attention, but it's still one of the best budget Android phones. That's relatively speaking because it still costs $549, which is on the high end of this list, but for that, you get an amazing phone that challenges high-end smartphones.
We call it the phone with the best feature set because no other phone in this segment is put together quite like it. From design quality to software features, this phone delivers an impressive experience. More so, you get premium features like 8GB of RAM and an in-display fingerprint scanner that no other budget Android phone offers.
While on the topic of the in-display fingerprint scanner, we should note that though it is a next-gen technology that's becoming more popular, it's still something only reserved for a few select phones. That makes the OnePlus 6T unique, and to be honest, futuristic compared to others on this list. Sure, the in-display fingerprint scaner isn't as fast as others, but it's a cool and secure way to unlock your phone. It's good to see a company like OnePlus taking risks with new technology, especially when it makes it accessible at a lower price point.
That being said, it would be foolhardy of us not to point out some of the phone's faults. It came out in October 2018, but that means it's ancient in the smartphone world with an older Snapdragon 845 processor. OnePlus also omitted wireless charging and a headphone jack to keeps costs down. But again, you still get an amazing smartphone that is truly worth every penny.
- Beautiful edge-to-edge display
- Streamlined software
- In-display fingerprint scanner
- Last year's model
- Older Snapdragon 845 processor
- No headphone jack
- No wireless charging
Best Feature Set
The best value in the mid-range Android market
The OnePlus 6T is the rare mid-range Android smartphone the delivers on next-gen features like its in-display fingerprint scanner and true near bezel-less display. It also doesn't hurt that it comes with 8GB of RAM and a stunning industrial design that just oozes premium.
It's becoming increasingly difficult to recommend a fantastic budget Android phone because at this point, there are so many. Which one you purchase comes down to what you value most — display, design, or camera — but there are plenty of options in a lower price point.
Take for instance, our main pick, the Pixel 3a XL. Its most outstanding feature is that camera that is by all accounts, the best camera on a smartphone. Yet you still get a beautiful, high-res OLED display and streamlined software that will get the most out of the phone.
Whether you go with our selection or another one that prioritizes something you value more, there is a perfect Android smartphone out there for you that will not cost an arm and a leg.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Born and raised in Southern California, Danny grew up on a steady diet Pixar, Star Wars and Steven Spielberg movies. Unbeknownst to him, this was the catalyst for his interest in writing. Down the road, the colorful iPod Mini jumpstarted his interest in technology and has been glued to it ever since.
We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.